I have been battling to get my head around the Oscar Pistorius case. I did not know how much I valued him as a South African inspiration story until just over ten days ago when that was somewhat thrown into question. In following the story in the media and in doing my own research on-line to find out more about him, I find myself thinking more and more about what his sponsors might be thinking now. Initially he was not dropped by any of his sponsors, but as far as I understand it, by the beginning of the week starting 18th February pretty much nobody wanted their brand associated with his, and the future of Oscar’s career looked bleak. This got me thinking about Nike’s relationship with Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Michael Vick to name just some of the sporting heroes whose behaviour and characters have been thrown in to question over the years.
Nike has had an interesting, turbulent and tempestuous relationship with some of it’s cover faces and yet it has often directly or indirectly stood by some of it’s fallen icons. This is not true for Pistorius right now, but who knows what the future holds for him at the end of his trial, which for now starts on 4th June 2013.
What does this say about Nike?
One could look at it in one of two ways: that they are steadfast in their strength and loyalty, which should be commended, or that they ‘allow’ for misconduct to be acceptable; and what message does this send out to the millions of young people who love their brand? In one way, does the human error factor have to over shadow the extraordinary discipline, commitment, talent and hope these sports stars displayed to their fans, and if we didn’t let it, what could we learn from this? After all, these are the people of the world who have fought for, and achieved, their dreams. But on the other hand, despite one’s status, influence, talent, wealth and fame, does one have a right to behave in ways that the above-mentioned people have? In fact, I would argue that being a person of influence makes you even more responsible for setting a good example for how to behave, because you are somebody with so much power. Perhaps it is precisely because people like Armstrong did so much for raising the profile of cancer and Pistorius did so much for the disabled, that I am now so disappointed in them.
I think that Nike’s slogan ‘Just Do It’ is cruelly ironic in light of the number of people who have deviated from setting the example that I am sure Nike wanted associated with their brand. The pay off line referring to Pistorius as the ‘bullet in the chamber’ is another very unfortunate one, that was being used by Nike at a very unfortunate time. None of this is necessarily is Nike’s fault but what I do think business (generally) can learn from Nike’s journey with these fallen sporting heroes that the world; and the people in it, are unpredictable and constantly changing.
What are the unpredictable and potentially disruptive drivers for your business or industry in the next two to five years? How are you going to respond? Who are you going to consult for the answers?